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Understanding Stages of Development

Published October 24th, 2022 by Jacqueline Chin

Blog author: Dr. Ann Marie Ginsberg


At times as a parent you might question if your child is growing as expected. Your neighbor is doing this, and their cousin is doing that, and your child isn’t. Using people that you know of as a measuring stick is not always accurate and might cause you to worry unnecessarily. Contrary to turning to acquaintances, pediatrician will be the most appropriate person to ask the questions. They know your child best and will be able to direct you if further evaluations are needed. The following blog and references will hopefully help you to better understand what your child should be doing at the various ages across the 5 developmental domains.


Developmental Milestones

The CDC, or Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has listed out the developmental milestones by month and later by year on their website. Such information is also available through downloading the free app CDC has developed here. This milestone checklist PDF found on CDC website is a developmental screening tool that you can use, though CDC cautions that it is not standardized nor validated. The screening tool was created just to help you find out if formal assessments are needed.


What Are the 5 Domains?

The term “developmentally appropriate” means your child is learning and growing within the normal range. Young children grow differently than adults and do not always grow consistently in the 5 developmental domains. Growth is observed in the following areas:

  • Cognitive. The way we think and process.
  • Social Emotional. The way children interact with other children and their caregivers, their play skills and their problem-solving skills.
  • Physical Development. Gross Motor, the larger movements, such as jump, run and squat, versus Fine Motor, the smaller movements, such as holding a pencil or using scissors.
  • Language and Communication. This is essential to being able to interact with others and navigate their world. Also broken into two parts: “receptive” is what they hear and understand and “expressive” is them responding to questions and asking for assistance.
  • Adaptive or Daily Living Skills. The level of independence in the areas appropriate for their age.

The key in working with young children is meeting them where they are and helping to bridge the gaps in learning where interventions or possible special education services might be needed.


The Montessori Philosophy

Activities that are hands-on, discovery-based, and age-appropriate have been proven to be the best activities for our young learners. Children aged 3-5 are trying to make sense of a larger world. You might have heard the expression that a child’s brain is like a sponge, and that is because they are absorbing so much information just the way a sponge would with water - effortlessly, continuously, and indiscriminately. This is what Dr. Maria Montessori referred to as “The Absorbent Mind.” The Montessori Method is a child centered educational method developed by her that involves tapping into children’s interests through an inquiry-based process. Our current 3K and UPK programs are grounded with roots of the Montessori philosophy.


“Play” Plays a Big Part

“Play” is also an important part of this development. At school, your child will be learning through play in everything they do. Sometimes, through make-believe play or constructing buildings, children spend almost 2.5 hours per day in theme-based centers focusing on areas such as art, music, writing, STEM, etc.


The Importance of Enrolling Your Child in a School

Enrolling your child in schools is the best way to help them grow in all the development domains. During a 5-hour school day, your child will be exposed to activities that guide and help them grow in various areas including but not limited to thinking and social emotional interactions. Many schools have full social emotional curriculum that helps students learn how to share and deal with emotions. Talk to your child about their day and feelings after school and identify places where they are struggling will eventually help you, as a parent, to better partner with the school and ultimately create a place for success. If you wish to learn more about the above subject, Philanthropist Thomas Denny Sanford developed a social emotional program that is free to access here. (Mr. Sanford always had a passion for inspiring others to create positive change in their world therefore contracted Dr. Andrews, who had over 30 years of experience in child development, to head and lead the program. In 2019, former Mayor De Blaso partnered with Sanford Harmony program to support all NYC elementary schools.)


Your child has an amazing learning journey ahead. With your help as a partner in learning, and advocate in ensuring they are getting what they need, your child is set up for success.




*Resources on both CDC and Harmony websites are also available in Spanish.

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